We have already reported on the major investments made by Ariston Nord West Ring (ANWR) to set up an integrated data processing platform to facilitate transactions between its affiliated retailers, the main office and their suppliers. The installation of the system was completed at the end of last year, and the international German-based cooperative is now looking at its implementation.

In an interesting interview with Petra Salewski, the chief editor of Schuhkurier, ANWR's chief executive, Günter Althaus, complains that several retail members are still wondering whether this is the right way to go, although they realize the need for shorter ordering cycles and more efficient reorders. ANWR estimates that the now available integrated processes can improve operating margins by two percentage points, but it want to prove it.

For this purpose, ANWR is looking at the possibility of starting up some retail operations of its own. They should have a certain size and appropriate location, and they should offer a representative range of products. To show that the cooperative doesn't want to compete with its numerous affiliated shoe retailers in Germany, Althaus says that the experiment may start up in a foreign country or in the sporting goods sector.

ANWR is also the German licensee of Sport 2000, a large cooperative of shoe retailers that is seeking to improve and update its own operations. It recently took on the Sport 2000 license in the Netherlands, where its subsidiary ANWR Garant International has acquired a lot of experience through its Fair Play International Sports concept (more on all this in Sporting Goods Intelligence Europe).

In the interview with Salewski, Althaus also said that ANWR is seeking closer cooperation with shoe brands and suppliers beyond its centralized settlement facilities. Examples of this are brand presentation at the point of sale, integrated managed retail spaces, product replenishment and product segmentation by retail channels. He insisted that ANWR doesn't want to go into the shoe production business by developing its own private labels.

He noted in fact that the recently established Markur Schuh Group, which formally became a company a few weeks ago, has been partly set up for the development of private brands by Leiser and other big affiliated retail chains, which continue to benefit from the services of ANWR in areas such as centralized settlements.

The total business volume handled by ANWR remained relatively stable at around €7.6 billion in 2012, including the operations of ANWR Schuh, Quick Schuh, ANWR Garant International, Goldkrone and Sport 2000. However, the affiliated retailers ordered about 8 percent than the year before in the shoe sector and 4 percent less in the sporting goods sector, indicating an effort by them to reduce their inventories. On the other hand, the DZB Bank and other financial institutions controlled by ANWR raised the volume of their business to €5.2 billion, and the growth is likely to continue in 2013.

According to preliminary estimates, the 11,000-plus retailers affiliated with ANWR and its subsidiaries developed their own sales along different patterns in 2012. Shoe retailers held up their turnover in Germany and enjoyed an increase in Austria, but those in the Netherlands suffered declines of up to 10 percent.